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plan b: other ashes

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The question still remains, what I am going to do now that the men with the pointy sticks have cut down all the branches and twigs from the tree that I've been watching since February. I can't reach any of the twigs on the tree outside the window any more and I can't see anything up close. Fall is coming and I want to watch!

My first thought was to take a look at some of the other ash trees in the neighborhood to see if any of them had some low branches that I could actually reach and examine closely.

Most do not.

But the girl ash tree across the street does have a few branches I can get to.


Interestingly, some of the features on her twigs are quite different from those on the twigs of my boy tree. The first difference I noticed was that this year's growth (the lighter colored bark extending up from the tip of the twig down to the first "knuckle" or ring-like bud scar) is much longer. Like four times as long! I wonder why she managed so much more growth than my tree did. Does it have something to do with the side of the street? Does this side get more sun? Or is this tree maybe healthier? Or is it because it is a female ash tree?

Another thing I noticed was that the developing buds on her twigs are much smaller than they were on my tree's twigs. Just try to find the lateral buds on the female ash tree! The lateral buds should be developing right above the spot where the leaf stem joins to the twig. 


Um, where are they? My tree already had big, fat buds that I speculated were close to being done developing. Look, here's how they looked on July 21st, when we came back from vacation.


See! Is this a boy/girl thing too? I'm thinking it might be. Last week, I picked up a twig that was blown off of another boy ash tree down the street during Hurricane Irene and look at the buds on this guy!


Apparently while the girl ash trees are making like 5,000 samaras and seeds, the boys are developing these big fat buds.


Hmmm, maybe the boy buds and girl buds are just different. I mean the boy buds have to make those flowers and all that pollen, so if the girls don't have to do that, maybe they don't need to make giant buds like this.


Speaking of boy stuff, remember how I found those sticky burr things on my tree way back in February and figured out that they were galls created by tiny mites growing in and feeding on the male ash tree flowers? Well, I never saw any new ones develop on my tree, but during my examination of the other ashes in the neighborhood this week, I discovered that a couple of the other boy ashes developed some new galls this spring.


See how they're green instead of the brown that the galls were on my tree? They're this green color in the season when they first develop. Then they turn brown and stay on the tree for a year or two. It's kinda gross to think that this tree had (has??) tiny bugs in it that made these. Ewwww. I wonder why there were (are??) so many of them on these trees across the street but not on my tree.


One more fascinating thing about this discovery. The tree that I found these on is a boy and a girl tree. Some ashes are like that, producing both girl and boy flowers. So this tree has areas where there are lots of samaras and then also areas like this where there are galls (which develop only in male flowers). And, if you look real close, you can see that the twig that these galls are on has big lateral buds growing right where the leaf stems attach to the tree. Well, I'll be darned!

buddy system

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The new buds on the green sections of the twigs are amazing.


They're really starting to look like the buds that were on the twigs back in February.


I wonder how much longer they'll continue to grow. One thing that seems to be happening is that they are becoming completely brown (like the buds above). Many of the terminal buds still actually look like this:


Two sides are green just like the shoots (you can still see a narrow green stripe in the bud in the first picture above). And the two sides that are green are precisely the sides where new shoots would grow. Cool! I wonder if this one will develop another pair of shoots before it is done? I'm guessing not, because this twig already has 5 pairs of leaves on it and I have yet to see a twig with more than 5 pairs of leaves.

For example, this is one of the twigs with the most growth and it's got 5 pairs of leaves branching off of it.


And here's the twig closest to my window.


5 pairs of leaves. And the twig next to it:


1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

There are plenty of smaller twigs that have fewer than 5 leaf pairs, but all of these larger twigs have 5. I feel like 5 may be some sort of maximum number for new growth. Could it be that my tree has all the leaves now that it is going to get this year? And all of its new buds for next year?

stem stuff

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There's some pretty cool stuff under all those gorgeous green leaves! Because that one little leaf broke off in the rain, I can actually get a good look at the stem below.


The stem is definitely longer now than in was when I first started measuring it. Back on May 10th, it was about 1 1/2" long. Now it's definitely 2" from where the top leaf stems (petioles) branch off to the tip of the original twig. I wonder how long it will keep growing!


What really fascinates me are those bumps on the stem right at the points where the new petioles grow out of the main shoot. Take a look straight down the stem...


That is amazing! The new growth (the light green stem with leaves attached) goes right into the old twig (the gray below), and those bumps look just like the old buds farther down the twig. I am guessing that they are the new buds for the next season. Can you believe that they're growing now in May?! I'm beginning to see how this works. The buds grow just above the petioles and when the leaves fall off in autumn, they'll leave leaf scars just like I saw on my twig all those months ago: directly under a bud.


And check this out: here's a close-up of the bud right between the petioles of the top pair of leaves in the cluster.


Darn if that ain't a new terminal bud! For some reason, this discovery makes me giddy.

open wide

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The little green pistachio buds at the tips of the twigs of my tree are growing like gangbusters! Here's how my twig looked on Friday the 15th.


And on Sunday the 17th, it opened up!


And today, it's opening even more!


A close look at that center section really makes me think there's a leaf in there that is going to uncurl itself. Or maybe it's like an onion with many layers of leaves that will continue to pull away from the center like the first two have.


It's cool. That's for sure.

the tipping point

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So, remember my little theory about the tips of the twigs getting longer? I've been taking photos of the tips of a couple of twigs to check and see if there's any change. Here's what happened this week.

The first twig looked like this on April 7th...

and on April 9th...


and yesterday...


WHOA! Hold up! That is GREEN. The bud at the tip opened up. Just since the weekend!

Let's look at twig #2. April 7th...


and on April 9th...


and yesterday, April 12th...


Squeee! More green!

I'd been wondering what those terminal buds were going to do. All the side buds have been opening up for weeks, revealing the pretty purple flowers but the buds on the tips, nothing. And now, it turns out that's where the green was hiding.

Once I realized that something was going on at the tips, I started seeing buds like this everywhere. They're all doing this!


They're like long green tongues coming out.


There seems to be a twist or fold or something through the middle. Is that a super curled up leaf in there??


Wow. Wow. Wow.

wondering about weather

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Almost a month ago, I was wondering what my tree needed to start blooming. Was it merely waiting for more sunlight and less snow? The answer seemed to come after one rare March day of sunshine and non-freezing temperatures, when I saw the first signs of change in the buds on my tree. Springwinter returned (it's a Boston season: spring on the calendar; winter outside) and I concluded that the blossoming would most likely be slow and steady. Then it snowed again. And seemingly miraculously, the buds looked further along the next day. Then we had clouds, wind and rain, and they continued to bloom. And now, the last four days have been crazy warm and sunny (70 degrees yesterday!) and I'm wondering what effect this has had on the buds.

So here's how the buds on one branch looked on April 5th, a full week ago, still in the midst of 40 degree, cloudy days.


Here are the buds from the same branch on April 9th, halfway into our mini heat wave.


And here's how they looked yesterday, after four days drinking in the sun and warmth of spring.


This is a dramatic change in one week. The brown is almost entirely gone. I feel like last week they looked like brown buds with some purple stuff coming out, whereas they now look like bundles of purple flowers bound together with some brown paper. Like a bouquet you might buy in the store.

Here's another branch on April 5th:


And yesterday, April 11th:


What a week for that twig, huh?!

So was all this progress due to the weather? Or was this just the natural progression of the process that started way back on the first day of spring? Was it progressing more slowly until the weather warmed up or is the beginning just slower than this part? I don't know if what I've observed is enough to answer these questions. But I have heard of "forcing" plants and flowers. As far as I know, it's a way of encouraging or tricking the plant to open up and start blooming earlier than it would normally. I think one way of forcing a plant is to give it some of the weather conditions it needs to get started growing again. So perhaps this great week of growth wasn't merely programmed in from the start. Perhaps the weather had the same effect on these buds that it did on most Bostonians this last week: the warmth on our faces and sunshine on our backs managed to coax us, once and for all, out of our winter havens and our weather skepticism. It's okay to come out now. Spring has truly arrived.

a flower bud

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Remember about a month ago, I showed you my son's sprouting bean plant.


Well, now it looks like this:


Wow, right?

Each week, I see more leaves unfurling from tiny buds.


But last week, we noticed a different sort of bud.


Two days later, it looked like this.


Whoa, that's not a leaf!

Sure enough, the next day, there appeared...


A flower!

S was so excited, he jumped out of bed in the morning when I told him his plant had a flower. There are now three more flower buds on the plant ready to open.

All this has gotten me thinking about the buds on my tree.


They're gonna be flowers!

I think.

purple rain

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The rain is amazing. Once again, it has managed to reveal so much more to me about my twig and the buds than the sun does. Today's rain revealed this:


There's so much purple, the buds look almost like berries!


Here's the bud cluster closest to my window that was one of the first to open and that I've been following in all my updates.  


It is now surrounded by twigs that look like this:


What a transformation from five days ago!

My tree must really like the rain.

opening buds

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After our April Fool's snow, we had a warm day with temperatures above 40 and sunshine. Did the buds survive the snow and continue sprouting their purple things?


Wow! Look at all that! There's almost as much purple as brown now. And check out the edge of the old buds. They look ripped, as if they are torn open when the purple stuff pushes its way out.


You can really see the tearing on this top bud here. Amazing!


Look, there's a bunch of shreds still left on the purple stuff of that one! Fascinating. I wonder if the bud also gets thinner so that it's easier for the purple stuff to push its way out. Or do the buds really just disintegrate, sort of like the roots of a baby tooth when it's time for it to fall out?

PS - Can I just say that the macro function on my camera is a wonderful thing! It has allowed me to look so closely at these buds. I've been able to see things I never would have noticed if I was only using my eyes.

snow on april fool's day

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The trees are not amused.


Not this tree with its little green leaves just starting to arrive.


And not my tree with its tiny purple seeds peeking out.


And definitely not these flowers.


Not funny, Mother Nature.

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About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the buds category.

bark is the previous category.

changes is the next category.

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